It’s time to ask, now that the IPO attempt failed and the CEO has been deposed: Does anyone still believe that WeWork is really a “tech company”? Please. Point to any technology that the company invented.
Of course WeWork used modern digital technology to operate its business. And it proudly marketed to and housed many companies that were in fact “tech.” Yes, the investors from SoftBank to Goldman put the company in their tech ‘bucket’. And WeWork’s (now former) flamboyant chief certainly epitomized the new cool of a t-shirt-wearing ‘tech’ CEO whose attire and style screams “I’m not a ‘suit’.”
But it stretches credulity to label a commercial real estate business as a tech company. There is in fact a conga line of similarly mislabeled ‘tech’ companies on the lists of “unicorns” (private companies worth over a billion dollars) awaiting an IPO.
If clever design, well-executed services and slick marketing gambits targeting Millennial office-space renters constitutes “tech,” then what’s next? Pig farming? Well….
It turns out the second biggest digital gaming company in China (think Nintendo) is building a huge pig farm, and they’re not alone. Given the demand for pork in China, a tech company can certainly bring to bear the power of analytics including artificial intelligence to make raising pigs “more efficient.” But it’s still a livestock farm that sends swine to the slaughterhouse. One could say the same about, say, office rentals, ride-hailing or food delivery, or banking.
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, and author of the recent report, “The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.” Follow him on Twitter here.
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